Age of Sigmar Learning League – One Month In and Lessons Learned

Hello everyone, Jason here to talk about my initial thoughts on how Age of Sigmar works in an organized play setting. 

Over the last month the staff at Frontline Gaming have been participating in an Age of Sigmar learning league. The league consists of purchasing, building, and painting 25 wounds worth of models every month for 4 months with a round robin tournament happening at the end of each month. Other than using wounds to structure our list building the only other restrictions from the 4 page ruleset are that each player may only have one warscoll with the Hero, Wizard, Monster, and Warmachine keyword for each 25 wounds in their army.  We wanted to play as closely to Games Workshop’s original ruleset as possible so that we could have a chance to get several games in so we can get a feel for what does and does not make sense in an organized play setting, such as a tournament.  While the game itself is best played with friends after several adult beverages, there is a sizable player base that would like to play the game in an organized setting that tries to curtail some of the more ‘ambiguous’ rules for the game.  After our first 5 games I’ve come up with a list of items that I feel need to be addressed for anyone looking to organize a tournament for Age of Sigmar.  Please note that I will not be talking about the lack of point costs, as this list will mostly be about the mechanics of the game.  On to the list!

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Mission Objectives – Throughout the first round robin tournament we have been using modified ITC missions. Literally just printing them out and using them for Age of Sigmar with a couple tweeks here and there to things that did not match up. They’ve been working out surprisingly well. Though our low wound count first tournament made taking and holding objectives strewn about the 4×4′ table sometimes difficult, we’ve found that the addition of mission objectives kept the games from devolving into a scrum in the middle of the board as each opponent simply tried to eliminate all enemy warscrolls.  This also forced some of us to reevaluate what we brought with our lists. I made a Khorne Bloodbound army that was geared for close combat so found myself at the mercy of quick, shooty armies that would dance out of range while peppering me with ranged attacks. I was also not able to hold objectives in my backfield or grab objectives on the other side of the board. For my next 25 wounds I will be adding speed and ranged warscrolls to help alleviate some of the holes in my army.

Alternating Initiative – This has been one of the most discussed game mechanics throughout our first games.  I’ve seen more games lost due to an opponent getting an opportune initiative role to go twice in a row than I am comfortable with. We laugh that it is a mechanic that you love when you win that initiative roll but absolutely feel is bad for the game when you lose it.  Honestly, I have rolled to win the initiative for the Battle Round and won as a result and it just left a bad feeling in my mouth.  It wasn’t any kind of skill or planning, I just happened to roll a die higher than my opponent.  A couple of issues that come about with alternating initiative are shooting warscrolls (which are VERY powerful in the game) having the ability to shoot their opponent twice or a wizard being able to summon twice in a row without you being able to do anything to stop it. In my game against Brandon’s Death army, he was able to summon 20 Zombie units twice which added 40 wounds to his army without my being able to counter him. I had effectively lost the game before it began.

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Summoning –  While we don’t have many players in our league that take advantage of this power, the one who does (Brandon) has proven that it is an EXTREMELY powerful mechanic that if not put in check just completely breaks the game.  This is especially true if you are using wounds to balance your army builds like we are currently doing.  One idea I have to try and restrict the impact summoning has on the game is to only let Wizards summon warscolls onto the battlefield that started in their army. I know that GW’s FAQ Draft said that it was intended that Wizards with the summoning ability could summon anything from warscrolls that have the summon spell but OF COURSE they would say that since they want to sell the kits.  We’ve seen what summoning and ‘free models’ have done to Warhammer 40k and honestly, I don’t want to see this happen to Age of Sigmar.

Unbinding – With the 4 page ruleset, the ability to unbind a spell is restricted to models being within 18″ of the caster.  This makes magic too powerful, in my opinion, and models with the ability should be able to unbind no matter where they are on the table but perhaps with a negative modifier to their role if outside 18″.  Summoning being the main culprit here, as wizard can sit back on their table edge and summon endlessly (usually needing to roll a 4 or 5 on 2d6) while their opponent looks on helplessly.  I would even go a step further and say that anyone can attempt to unbind no matter if they have a wizard or not but summer a fairly detrimental negative effect such as a -4 or something to their roll.

Shooting Into and Out of Combat – This is more of an issue of Games Workshop simply not saying that you COULDN’T shoot into and out of combat.  The general consensus is that units armed with missile weapons can use them to fire into a combat and fire them out of combat, even at a different warscroll than the one they are currently fighting.  We have been playing it this way and pretty much all fee this just makes shooting warscrolls, which are already very powerful, game breaking.  In the combat phase it allows units armed with missile weapons to shoot in the shooting phase then swing in the combat phase.

Now there have definitely been more issues than this list but these were the most discussed between staff while we played our first games at 25 wounds.  What kind of adjustments to the 4 page ruleset have you been making?  Do you like playing with modifications or prefer to play straight out of the rules?  Let us know in the comments!

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About Jason

Raw Dogger, aka, Phat J Sleaze (formerly of the Booty Boyzzz) is a highly opinionated, questionably skilled 40k enthusiast. When not working at Frontline Gaming, he can be found down on Jabroni Avenue.

38 Responses to “Age of Sigmar Learning League – One Month In and Lessons Learned”

  1. Heldericht June 23, 2016 12:28 am #

    Great summary. It’s good to see some things working, but it’s clear there are some fundamental issues. Maybe with an ITC style ruleset for AOS the game will become more playable. It seems to have some big balance issues at the moment.

    • Reecius
      Reecius June 23, 2016 9:26 am #

      Yeah, the game as is has literally no balance. GW made the game assuming their audience was casual and wanted something extremely simple but missed the mark quite a bit in that regard.

      However, with some fine tuning the game is a blast.

  2. Ytook June 23, 2016 1:06 am #

    Not going to go on about how I think alternating initiative is important outside of smaller games again, I’ve ranted about that here enough and you can play with your toy soldiers how ever you want 😛

    But one thing we’ve been doing at our group that’s working quite well is say that once per game if your general is alive you can force your opponent to choose to go second if it would mean they don’t get a double turn (I.e. your opponent went last the previous turn and they must do so again), but you can’t use a command ability that turn, seems to stop the early game crippling but keep the disruption and uncertainty that makes alternating initiative an important part of the game.

    And yeah unrestricted summoning doesn’t work, I love AoS but… yeah. We basically use it as a top up option if things are going badly in narrative play, and in competitive play say that you have to buy summoning spells for wizards, with the cost being equal to the base pool cost of the unit (we use the SCGT pool system). Though there’s other good systems out there like the SCGT system.

    • Reecius
      Reecius June 23, 2016 9:28 am #

      Hey Ytook, would you be interested in writing an article explaining your position on the random initiative in AoS? In the office, literally everyone thinks it is a terrible rule that sucks the fun out of the game. However, we’re playing small games and have less experience than you do. I’d be interested in hearing your rationale for supporting it.

      • Ytook June 23, 2016 10:26 am #

        Thanks for the invite but I don’t really have the time or writing skill to do it well enough, comments from my phone in down time is one thing 😛

        There’s plenty of AoS bloggers and community peeps who would probably do a much better job, might be worth asking the Heelanhammer people for it or for recommendations on who could do it?

        • Reecius
          Reecius June 23, 2016 10:29 am #

          No worries! I was curious to read your thoughts in long format, but totally understandable.

          Yeah, we may go to interview the SCGT guys if they’re game for it.

  3. Ben June 23, 2016 2:59 am #

    I don’t see how restricting summoning to units that were in the initial force really helps. The problem is lots of free models.

    • Reecius
      Reecius June 23, 2016 9:30 am #

      I like the way the SCGT handles summoning. You can essentially get 50% more points worth of models via summoning at the expense of starting with less models on the table.

    • Beau June 23, 2016 5:59 pm #

      I’m not sure if that means resummoning lost units (which gives a chance to assassinate the wizard) or just being limited to summon more of a unit that you already own (like how the death army did with the zombies). For example here with frontline they are limited to 1 wizard right now, so if fateweaver could only summon say pink horrors… that is much better than being able to summon a lord of change from outside the game who also summons heralds who then also summon pink horrors (pink horrors who can in fact summon more pink horrors to summon more pink horrors). Scary.

  4. Bandera June 23, 2016 3:03 am #

    GW’s own Warhammer World balances summoning by allowing models up to a total of half the army’s starting size in wounds to be summoned during the game. That sounds pretty sensible to me.

    • Reecius
      Reecius June 23, 2016 9:30 am #

      Yeah, there must be a limit or it gets so stupid, lol

      • gvcolor June 23, 2016 11:04 am #

        Unbinding could have a negative modifier added to it for a distances beyond 18″ I guess… but there are units/models that can essentially deep-strike in on the enemy – so if someone is sitting back to summon you can bring a unit to the game for the purpose of going after them. I’m just not sure all factions have something with the ability though.

        Summoning – For just fun games with friends a loose rule to control it is enough, for tournament play it would really need to be tight… certainly makes killing casters a high priority!

        • Reecius
          Reecius June 23, 2016 11:39 am #

          Yeah, I am not sure I agree with Jason on infinite range unbinding, either. I think you have to plan for it in your list.

  5. Beau June 23, 2016 4:19 am #

    Agree with what you have said.

    I usually just say before a game “I’ll play with no summoning” just to avoid how terrible that can go… and I play daemons lol. After the GW FAQ I realized my Tzeentch army build to go infinite if I get turn 1 and then inflict infinite mortal wounds with my 15k points of daemons is just silly. I maybe am ok with the idea of using summoning to only replenish lost models in a game… but I have seen the bad things that Nagash and Arkhan the Black can do!

    Unbinding is fine if you play without summoning or put a huge dampener on it.

    Shooting into and out of combat is in the GW FAQ as correct. I like it because if you look at a swashbuckling pirate with pistol and sword, or some Last of the Mohicans run and gun into melee, then it makes sense while being extra cinematic and cool. Maybe a tad unrealistic, but it’s fun to think of Legolas putting that arrow into the Orc’s eye before he smashes some hobbit.

    Alternating initiative I’m on the fence about. I have seen it do bad with double summoning then shooting, and good for me when my Nurgles get a double heal. I get that they are trying to mix it up with “You had better be careful with where you put your dudes and who you assault because your opponent might get a double turn!” I think it matters a lot in both large and small wound count games…

    Loving the AOS attention so far guys, and looking forward to the delve into points costs! Keep up the good work!

    • abusepuppy June 23, 2016 6:39 am #

      The issue with “be careful of the enemy getting a double turn” is that there is, in most cases, very little you can DO about it. You can expect the possibility, sure, and know what will happen if it does come up, but there’s not a lot of tactical plays that allow you to work around that possibility apart from “really really hope it doesn’t happen.”

      • Ytook June 23, 2016 7:21 am #

        That’s not really true, positioning is key in AoS, it’s a necessity to position yourself around a double turn, and if you get a double turn to consider in your second one that you will then be on the back foot waiting for your opponents double turn.

        Ok if your opponents army is all high move flying units then there’s little you can do, but units in AoS are generally slow (as compared to 40K) and have allot of board control. This is why in the tournament scene in the UK the “meta” as it were is based on armies acting in waves rather than a single battle line. It takes a bit of restructuring in thinking from 40K and WHFB but it’s certainly possible, and is done in the (admittedly still relatively new) tournament scene.

        • Ytook June 23, 2016 7:24 am #

          Of course that’s all based on larger games, at the very small scale of 25 wounds a side a double turn is amplified massively so I can understand limiting it then. Just as you wouldn’t allow a Wraithe Knight army in a 400 point 40K game.

    • Reecius
      Reecius June 23, 2016 9:40 am #

      The problem we’ve had with shooting into and out of combat is that shooting units are massively more efficient than melee units. If you’re playing to win, I can see very little reason to take anything other than shooting units. If there was a penalty for shooting into or out of combat that would help to balance them out.

      As for the random initiative thing, we’re being patient to wait and see but so far everyone seriously hates it. When a shooting army shoots twice in a row, or you have a really important melee, say between your two big bad ass models, and one of them gets to swing twice in a row, it just sucks. You lose because of the initiative roll and it has been a major bummer for us so far.

  6. Anvil
    Anvil June 23, 2016 6:04 am #

    I agree with mission objectives, and how to go about summoning, but sort of disagree with the rest. If you think about Summoning and how the rules intended the game to be played, then you would use summoning to replenish lost forces instead of bolstering your army even more. Think about it, original rules were to place as many models on the table as you want, up to all the models you have or until you ran out of space. First turn starts, and you want to summon. Well, summon what? All of your models are on the table, you don’t have any more models that you can bring in.

    As for the rest of the concerns, I would wait until the games are larger before changing any of them to something else. The game plays differently at larger scale, just like 40k. I would not rush into anything major. Plus, we got the General’s Handbook coming out soon, which will change things up massively by the sounds of it.

    • Reecius
      Reecius June 23, 2016 9:43 am #

      We’re remaining patient, as everyone is saying it is different once you scale up. Jason was just voicing some of his opinions.

      As for Summoning I don’t know, Anvil. GW said in their FAQ that yes, you can summon infinitely. There’s never been anything indicating a limit at all. It is a pretty incredibly bad rules mechanic as written. Models like Nagash can replenish the entire army in a single magic phase even using the system you describe. it’s still not balanced in the slightest.

      • Anvil
        Anvil June 23, 2016 1:49 pm #

        Reece, I don’t think we’re disagreeing on anything here. I agree that there needs to be some restriction on summoning. Yes, it gets out of control in some games. All I’m saying is that summoning should only be used to replenish models, not add extra models beyond what you have placed on the table at the beginning of the game. For example, if the player lost 7 zombies in the game, then the next time they attempt to summon a unit of zombies, then the max they would put down would be 7 zombies, if they even succeed on the spell roll.

        If I had an army/collection of 60 models, and placed them all on the table, then I have 0 models left to place down (that’s my whole collection and army, as per what the rules assume you would play with). If I wanted to summon turn 1, I can’t, because there are literally 0 models I have left to bring to the table. If you restrict the armies to be smaller for a tournament, like 30 models, then it would make sense that at the beginning of the game, I can’t summon any models, as all 30 of them are on the table. As they die, I can summon them back to the table, but only the models that were killed throughout the game.

        • Reecius
          Reecius June 23, 2016 2:37 pm #

          Fair play, that sounds reasonable. I like the SCGT format where you can swap models starting on the table for 50% more models “in reserves” so to speak and try to summon them in as the game goes.

        • gvcolor June 23, 2016 2:53 pm #

          I like what Anvil has on this it works for play balance for sure – goes against the fluff story line a bit, but there’s a difference between reading a story and playing a game so that each side feels it can win.

  7. IngenuityGap June 23, 2016 6:16 am #

    For summoning our local group has a gentleman’s agreement that anything summoned can’t then summon something that turn. I run a Tzeentch Daemons army and with the right combo I can basically just chain summon until my box of guys is empty. Not fun for me or the opponent. However, being able to summon is what gives my army some durability.

    • Reecius
      Reecius June 23, 2016 9:45 am #

      Fair points but shouldn’t we not be required to agree not to use a clear rule because it is so incredibly silly, haha?

      I am very much enjoying the game so far, but there are a few parts of it that are like, blatantly bad. We can easily fix it as a community but holy smokes, why did these rules come in? A simple explanation form GW would be great to shed some light on the reasoning.

      • Ytook June 23, 2016 10:20 am #

        They’ve layed out the reasoning quite clearly, AoS as is was never meant to be played competitively in the slightest. It’s designed as a loose open rule set that you do what you want with, in other words if you’re not having fun you’re playing it wrong.

        Hence the generals handbook that’s coming and the matched play system, which basically equates to GW saying if you want to play competitively then here’s the foundation to do it, but it’s only one way to play the game and clearly not what was originally intended.

        • Reecius
          Reecius June 23, 2016 10:28 am #

          Fair enough, and thanks for sharing that. AoS is clearly a casual game but saying something like “have fun or you’re doing it wrong” makes since theoretically but in practice is simply an awful way to present a rule set as fun is subjective. The General’s Handbook will hopefully alleviate this issue.

          • Ytook June 23, 2016 10:44 am
            #

            I think the generals handbook basically shows that it was an experiment that hasn’t worked out quite as hoped 😛

            Wargaming has moved on from the old put your stuff on the kitchen table and mess about way, pre points or even well defined stats, I think AoS was an attempt to re-capture that more improvisational simpler spirit (while also, let’s face it, taking a great deal of rules writing work off of GW’s hands). But we expect a lot more than that as an audience now, and with the change in management and the fairly huge positive shift in attitude that GW seem to be going through hopefully they’ve realised that.

            Oh and also it has been confirmed that summoning will be curbed in matched play in the generals handbook, no summoned units summoning has already been mentioned and I’d expect more, as well as shooting in combat changes, given the amount of input TOs had.

            Anyway I’ll shut up now before half of the comments in this thread are from me…

          • Reecius
            Reecius June 23, 2016 11:25 am
            #

            No worries! I enjoy hearing your insight as you are clearly more attuned to AoS than we are at this point. Thanks for sharing that information.

  8. Blight1 June 23, 2016 7:03 am #

    Maybe impose a limit of one summon per player turn and regulate the amount summoned. Twenty seemed high for one zombie summon.
    For shooting you could either enforce a ban to shooting in combat or you could impose a modifier. Maybe only hit on 6s while within 3 of an enemy model and you have to fire at that model. At least give melee only units an opportunity to strike before a shooty unit they are fighting fires.

    • Reecius
      Reecius June 23, 2016 9:45 am #

      Yeah, we’ve discussed things like that, too. Shooting is just so much better than melee.

      • Beau June 23, 2016 6:20 pm #

        hopefully shooting units cost +++ points!

  9. gvcolor June 23, 2016 11:03 am #

    We played a game last night – Nurgle against Fireslayers and it was a good time! Summoning and Shooting into combat are really the big ones to me. Fingers crossed on the tournament play rules, because that “should” have something tight for summoning 😀

    I am not a fan of rolling for initiative each turn, it is just too random and if you are on the losing side all you can do is take your bumps. Even at 80 wounds of game… Sure you can cast Mystic Shield or what not on a unit and it will hold up until its your turn again, but there isn’t a lot of planning you can do around having Celestant Prime drop in and clobber you twice in a row with a Cometstrike… for example.

    • Reecius
      Reecius June 23, 2016 11:37 am #

      Yeah, that is the general consensus for us, too. Everyone feels bad when they get a double turn, half the time the player refuses to take it, lol, just so the game can go on a bit longer and be more enjoyable for both players.

  10. gvcolor June 23, 2016 11:10 am #

    I wonder if GW will look at firing into/out of combat for the upcoming release _ my guess is no.

    Just making a modifier on the to hit roll to do so would be an easy application. That keeps it in flavor of the core rule but doesn’t add additional layers such as hitting your own units or as in The Hobbit where only the evil faction can do so because they are evil and don’t care if they hit their own (which can happen in that game).

  11. Zarryiosiad June 23, 2016 11:10 am #

    Would adding a 40k style “Seize the Initiative” roll work? Say one player rolls high enough to get two turns in a row. When that condition is met, allow the other player to declare he will attempt to seize the initiative and try to roll that all-important “6”. That way you can have your cake and eat it too….

    • FunBug No.1 June 24, 2016 6:30 am #

      I like this idea!

  12. Bonzai June 23, 2016 6:23 pm #

    While summoning is powerful, it’s pretty much what VCs is based around. Our core is crap, with the quantity being the only quality we have. When you restrict by wounds, summoning balances out how our zombies match up to more powerful infantry. Our heroes/wizards are powerful, but can always be sniped out by shooting. Unbindling is already a roll off when in 18 inches. I don’t agree with allowing it table wide. It basicly means your stuff only works 50% of the time. While I would agree with only being able to summon units you brought with you, and no chain summons, summoning is part of what certain armies are designed around.

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